DIY Small Compost Bins

A lightweight, portable compost bin contains decomposing landscape trimmings and kitchen scraps while affording the most flexibility in where to place your compost pile. This design is ideal for limited-space gardens and yards and can be camouflaged behind a tall shrub to avoid irritating sensitive neighbors. You can make this bottomless wire-and-wood compost bin quickly and inexpensively as a weekend project and get started cooking up healthy compost for your garden. (See References 1, 2)

Cut each 12-foot 2-by-4 cedar boards into 3-foot lengths. Join together four boards with mending plates or flat metal braces to make a flat square frame. Add adhesive at all joints. Use screws to fasten the plates or braces to the wood. Repeat until you have four separate frames of the same size.

Attach wire-mesh hardware cloth to one of the frames. Measure the frame's opening, and cut a square of cloth that is 3/4-inch larger than the opening on all sides. Use a staple gun to staple the hardware cloth to one side of the frame, starting with the four corners. Continue stapling the cloth to the frame along all of the edges until the cloth is secure and taut. Repeat this step until all four frames are outfitted with wire-mesh screens.

Connect the frames in pairs, using two 4-inch hinges to join together each pair where their corners meet. Stand the two hinged frames upright, bend them and fit them together to form a closed cube. Make sure that the sides with the staples are facing inwards.

Attach two hook-and-eye gate latches on each of the sides that are not already hinged together. Place one latch 6 inches from the top and one latch 6 inches from the bottom. Position the latches so that the frames fit together tightly when the latches are closed. The hook-and-eye closures will hold the bin together while also making it easy for you to disassemble it and move it to another spot in your yard.

Raccoon-proof your compost bin if critters are a problem in your garden. Just make an extra wood-and-mesh frame and attach one side of it to the top of the cube using two 4-inch hinges. For extremely persistent and clever raccoons, add a hook-and-eye latch to the other end to keep the top securely in place.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • 4 12-foot 2x4 cedar boards
  • Hand or power saw
  • 32 mending plates or flat braces, 4-inch
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire-mesh hardware cloth, 1/2-inch thick, 36 inches by 152 inches
  • Wire cutters or tin snips
  • Staple gun and industrial staples
  • Wood adhesive
  • 4 hinges, 4-inch
  • 4 large hook-and-eye gate latches


  • Fill the compost bin, moisten the ingredients periodically and let decomposition work its magic over six months to two years. Or turn the compost every few weeks to speed up the breakdown of the materials into finished compost.


  • Avoid treated lumbers, which can leach chemicals. If you can't find cedar boards, use plastic lumber. (See References 2)

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About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .